Synopses & Reviews
Chapter OneA Little Kid
When Johnny was nine he received a letter from the President of the United States. It read:
Along with the letter came a ginger ale bottle cap. It was bent in the middle from when the President had pried it off with his bottle opener.
Johnny threw the letter away and tossed the bottle cap in with his other ones.
That was about a year and a half ago.
Johnny can remove a bottle cap without bending it.
"John-ny!" called his mother, Carol Laxatayl, from the living room. "Johnny, go to bed. Johnny! Johnny, where "are" you?"
"He's in the basement," said Christene from under the coffee table. Christene was Johnny's little sister who never had to go to bed.
"Princess, do you know where Johnny is?" asked her mother.
Christene bit her finger, then nodded her head.
"John-ny!" called Carol.
It was summertime, just a week after school let out, and the day before Johnny's eleventh birthday.
"Johnny, where are you? It's time for bed! Johnny, I know you can hear me, do you hear me?"
Carol worked in a library where she had to keep quiet all day long. When she came home she made up for it by yelling a lot. Mostly, she yelled at Johnny.
"Johnny! Johnny, where are You?"
"He's in the basement," said Christene.
"Princess, do you know where your brother is?" asked Carol.
Christene bit her finger and nodded her head.
That last scream woke up Johnny's father, Harry Laxatayl, who had been asleep on the couch. Harry had been out of a job for a while. He was a tall, skinny man with red hair and a red beard. Helooked like a red-headed Abe Lincoln.
"What's the matter, Honey?" he asked.
"I can't find Johnny," Carol replied. "It's past his bedtime. John-ny!"
"Princess, where is Johnny?" asked her father.
"He's in the basement, Daddy," said Christene.
"He's in the basement, Honey," repeated Harry.
Mrs. Laxatayl gave her daughter a funny look. "Princess?" she asked. "Why didn't you tell me where he was?"
Christene thought for a second, then replied, "I didn't know you were looking for him." She thought it sounded like a reasonable answer.
Carol threw her hands up in the air, then walked into the hall closet. On the floor there was a trapdoor. She raised it and hollered down into the basement, "Johnny, it's time for bed!"
There was no answer.
"Johnny, are you down there?" she called. "Johnny!"
"Did you call me, Mommy?" came the voice from down below.
"Yes I called you!" answered his mother. "I've been calling you for the last ten minutes! It's after ten o'clock!"
"Okay, okay," said Johnny. "You don't have to shout."
He was ten years old and his bedtime was ten o'clock. Tomorrow was his birthday and his bedtime would be changed to ten-thirty, but today he still had to go to bed at ten o'clock. He stepped up from the basement and out of the closet.
His mother smiled when she saw Johnny and Johnny kissed her good night. His father patted him on the back. "Go to sleep, Son. You've got a big day ahead of you."
Johnny walked down the hall toward his room.
"Good night, Johnny," called Christene.
"Night, Christene," said Johnny.
Johnny looked like a dog. Not that he was ugly. No, he was, as they say, "a handsome dog." Besides, dogs aren't ugly. And not all dogs lookalike. A Saint Bernard looks nothing like a poodle. But Johnny didn't look like either of those dogs. He looked just like a dog that happened to live only a few blocks away, a mutt by the name of Popover.
Popover had white, silky fur with black around his eyes, and a very curly tail.
Johnny didn't have a tail. Nor did he have white, silky fur with black around his eyes. But he looked like Popover just the same. They had the same expression on their faces.
Johnny's in the basement where his parents won't bother him, sitting on top of The World's Greatest Bottle Cap Collection. He's just turned eleven and his parents have decided that it's time for him to grow up. Suddenly he has to wash the dishes and take out the garbage. And get rid of his bottle caps! His birthday presents are grown-up junk like socks and underwear and -- worst of all -- social-dancing lessons. Growing up certainly doesn't seem worth it -- until he meets Valerie Plum, who hates dancing school even more than Johnny does, but doesn't hate Johnny at all.
When Johnny has his eleventh birthday, his parents decide he is old enough for dancing classes, but too old to collect bottle caps any more.
About the Author
When Louis Sachar was going to school, his teachers always pronounced his name wrong. Now that he has become a popular author of children’s books, teachers all over the country are pronouncing his name wrong. It should be pronounced “Sacker,”like someone who tackles quarterbacks or someone who stuffs potatoes into sacks.
Mr. Sachar received a B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. His first book, Sideways Stories from Wayside School, was accepted for publication during his first year of law school. After receiving his law degree, he spent six years asking himself whether he wanted to be an author or a lawyer before deciding to write for children full-time. His books include Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger, There’s a Boy in the Girls’Bathroom, Wayside School is Falling Down, Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, and the Marvin Redpost series.
Louis Sachar lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and their daughter, Sherre.
In His Own Words...
"One thing I would like to know from my favorite authors is who their favorite authors are. So I will begin there. My favorite authors (not necessarily in order) are: E. L. Doctorow; J. D. Salinger; Kurt Vonnegut; Dostoyevski; Tolstoy; Flannery O'Connor; Kinky Friedman; Rex Stout; E. B. White; William Saroyan; John Steinbeck; Dr. Seuss. These are mostly adult authors, which is only fitting, since I am mostly an adult."
"I was born in East Meadow, New York. My father worked on the seventy-eighth floor of the Empire State Building, which I thought was pretty cool. We moved to Tustin, California, when I was nine, not too far from Disneyland."
"I wrote my first children's story as part of a creative writing assignment in high school. That story was called "Apple Power" and was about a mean teacher named Mrs. Gorf who turned her students into apples. My teacher didn't think that I had taken the assignment seriously and suggested I write something else."
"During my last year of college at the University of California at Berkeley, I worked part-time at a nearby elementary school -- Hillside School. I got college credit for being a teacher's aide, and I was paid two dollars an hour to watch over the kids on the playground. My official title was Noontime Supervisor, but the kids called me Louis the yard teacher."
"After graduating from college I wrote Sideways Stories from Wayside School. The kids in the book are named after the kids I knew at Hillside, and, of course, Louis the yard teacher is in there, too."
"I went to law school in San Francisco a year later, and the book was published during my second year. When I graduated in 1980, I had to make the difficult choice between writing and practicing law. I knew I could make a good living practicing law, but I chose to write because it was what I liked to do."
"I met Carla in 1981 while visiting a school in Texas. She was the school counselor and became the inspiration behind the character (also a counselor named Carla) in There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom. When I wrote the book, I didn't know I'd end up marrying her."
"We were married in 1985, and our daughter, Sherre, was horn in 1987. In 1990 we moved from San Francisco to Austin, Texas. We have a dog named Lucky. In my spare time I like to play duplicate bridge."